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Poise, grace and race: Professional dancer Isaac Kerr's exceptional journey
Professional dancer Isaac Kerr is one of the busiest and most accomplished forces in New York's vibrant dance scene. Whether classic ballet, jazz, African or modern contemporary, Kerr excels in almost every style?an astonishing ability underscored by the fact that he is currently performing with half a dozen very active professional dance companies. That level of skill is rare, but the path which the Caribbean-born Kerr took to reach this point was an often daunting one.

"I was born on an island called St Vincent and the Grenadines," Kerr said. "We moved when I was four months old and I grew up in Canada."

Accepting nature of Canadian people largely eschews any form of bigotry?and while Kerr was a popular student with an active social life, he nonetheless often felt the odd man out.

"I grew up in a predominately white community, it was difficult to see myself in others," he said. "I was fighting the stereotypes of a black male which included playing basketball and always being masculine."

Kerr became a highly competitive, award-winning Speed Skater but his fascination with dance soon manifested itself.

"My friend had two sisters that danced and whenever I was at their place, I would copy their moves," he said. "They invited me to a performance, and was amazed at what they could do with their bodies?I instantly knew that it was something I wanted to try."

Kerr's natural athletic skill and burgeoning creativity made for a powerful combination, yet he still faced resistance.

"The transition from Speed Skating to dance was very interesting, physically and environmentally," he said. "In my hometown, the community's attitude was I was only interested in hip hop and I probably wasn't good at other styles. It was hard to make friends when I first started dancing. The dance community was not as friendly as the speed skating community."

The insular world of formal dance training was rigidly controlled, and on top of his different race, Kerr faced disdain from instructors for beginning training at what was considered a late age?most start when they are just 4 or 5.

"Because of the stereotype, it was a constant battle to prove myself," Kerr said. "And with a lack of formally trained black dancers in Canada there were a lack of resources."

"As a black dancer there are things I have to specifically be aware of," Kerr said. "Black people have different anatomy than others. My teachers were constantly correcting 'mistakes' that I later understood were because of my body type."

This adversity was compounded by the fact that Kerr quickly grew to a statuesque 6 feet, 5 inches, a height which far exceeded that of his average peers. In typical fashion, Kerr just pressed on?his dream would not be deferred.

"Black dancers have certain needs that aren't met a lot time, and the first outlet I ever saw for a black dancer was Alvin Ailey and that's how I ended up at the Ailey school."

African American dancer-choreographer-educator Alvin Ailey was, of course, one of the most successful and respected figures in American dance, one whose boundless creativity and high standards set the tone for modern dance worldwide.

Today, if Kerr isn't in rehearsal with one of the six companies he works with (Abanar Dance, Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre, Jennifer Muller the Works, Vashti Dance Theatre, Armitage Gone! Dance and Visions Contemporary Ballet), he is almost certainly onstage performing with another. That inexhaustible creative drive and inappeasable thirst for knowledge and experience define Kerr and his remarkable place in modern dance.

"I am very persistent and tend to hang around the best of the best to capture their essence. That's how I've grown so fast in dance, through being with dancers who have a very high level of artistry and technique?that's what keeps me going."

(Photo by Nir Arieli)

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